Friday, April 01, 2011

No Cruelty, Please!

Three years into my marriage, I informed my wife one morning that I was renouncing the materialistic life and moving to a commune in Oregon.

Her expression did not change. As she poured milk into her bowl of cereal, she looked at the wall clock and said, "You are late for work."

I knew this would be difficult. I sighed and told her I was serious. "In six months, I will be moving to an Ashram at the foot of the Himalayas."

"Wow, a jet-set hippie!" She almost choking on her cereal.

I pointed to the suitcase that I had packed the night before. "Look," I said, "the best thing would be for you to come with me but I am not sure you will want to. Life in a commune is hard. Sharing everything and all."

"Oh yeah, I hear they share everything," she said.

She was referring, obviously, to drug and sex.

"It's not what you think," I replied.

"You are late for work," she repeated.

"Look, I am sure we will be together again. It's just that I need to find myself. I have had it with this consumer life. It has nothing to do with you. If anything, it's only because of you that I didn't leave earlier."

Her eyes narrowed. "If this is a joke, it's a very bad one," she said menacingly.

I knew it would come to this. After all, how do you leave your wife just like that to connect with your inner mojo?

Seeing the tears in my eyes, she flinched. For the first time since our surreal conversation, she looked at me with what I thought was anger and fear.

"Have you lost your mind? Are you crazy? What am I supposed to do here alone?"

"I have made arrangements," I said. "You don't have to worry about mortgage and the bills. I will explain everything."

"You are not serious, are you?"

The first wave of desperation was beginning to hit the tranquil shore of her mind.

"I am. This is destiny. You will be okay. I can see both of us in the Ashram one day. Trust me, you will not regret it."

Suddenly, I saw a spoon flying in my direction. I ducked. Barely in time.

"Hey," she said fiercely, "cut the nonsense. If you don't feel like going to work, don't. Call in sick."

"I am not sick. And I will be leaving in about 15 minutes. I want to go over some details with you."

Fear began to fill her face. She kept staring at me intently.

"For God's sake, stop it," she finally said. "If there is something wrong in our marriage, if I have done anything to upset you, just tell me. I am sure I - we - can work it out." Tears were welling up in her eyes.

"No, no, you have done nothing wrong. You have been an angel. I couldn't have asked for a better wife. But that's not what this is about! A month ago I saw a dream. I saw myself in an Ashram. I saw the same dream three nights in a row. After the third night, I knew what I had to do. I knew I had to leave everything behind and go away. My only hope is that you will be with me again one day as we seek nirvana together."

"Really? Did you bother to ask me even once if I wanted to come to the commune with you?"

"No, I did not. There's a reason. I saw in my dream that unless I left you behind, I would never get you back. You know how it goes, give up to get back. Think of this as the test of our love."

"Are you writing a novel or something?" There was sarcasm in her voice.

"I really have to go," I said. "I have written down everything. Can we just sit for a few minutes to go over the details?" My voice betrayed my desperation. I sat down and began to sob.

"What am I going to do alone?" she wailed. "How can you do something like this to me? Life is not a movie, you know! You can't just take off like that! Let's talk this over. Call your friends. Discuss it with them. See what they have to say!"

"But that's the point. I have to leave quietly. No one must know. That's what I was instructed to do in my dream."

"Shut up about your dream, you idiot!" she screamed. She was trembling and crying. "Oh God, this can't be happening! I didn't do anything to deserve this!" She looked at me with murder in her eyes.

I tried to pacify her. She sprang away from me as if I were a leper. "I want to go back home," she said. "I want to go back to Chittagong. I don't want to stay here. Go to hell and find yourself. I want to go back to my parents."

"That cannot be," I said emphatically.

She became hysterical. I tried to calm her down. I sprinkled cold water on her head. I gave her ice-water to drink. I begged her to stop screaming. "What will the neighbors think?" I asked.

When nothing seemed to work, I used my only remaining option.

"It's April Fools', silly," I whispered in her ears.

She didn't understand what I was saying, so I had to repeat myself several times until it finally sank in.

I had to atone for my unpardonable act. After she had regained her self-control, we left immediately for Las Vegas where we enjoyed a show by her favorite entertainer, Tom Jones.

But it took her several years to start treating me like a normal human being. Every now and then, at home or at a party, I would catch her looking at me. It was clear what she was thinking. "This guy is a lunatic, a moron. How did I ever end up with him?"

Moral of the story: By all means, pull an April Fools' on your loved one but make sure it is free from cruelty.

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